Saturday, May 13, 2006
The whiff of fascism in the air
In tomorrow's New York Times, David Brooks's column is titled (presumably not by him) "From Freedom to Authority." The general thesis is that "we're moving from what you might call loose conservatism to tight conservatism. We're seeing a conservatism that emphasizes freedom give way to a conservatism that emphasizes authority." The most remarkable sentences are the following:
Agreed: many of the disasters that have befallen this country in the last eight years would not have happened if Clinton had resigned.
Somewhere in the Secret Service archives there is a whole series of emails from me to whitehouse.gov laying out the reasons why he should resign, which I began to send as soon as it came out that he had lied to a grand jury.
That struck me, immediately, as a fundamental and unforgiveable blow against the separation of powers and the constitutional form of government.
Oddly enough, Clinton never replied to my emails.
And now, of course, we have a president who thwarts the judiciary not out of some temporary one-off lawyerly dodging on the witness stand, but from a settled ideology of contempt for the other branches of government.
Yup, it's fascism-lite, so far, and gaining in strength. And while Clinton now looks like small potatoes in comparison to Bush's crimes, I wish that both left and right had laid down a marker during that event that a president who lies to Congress or the Judiciary is an ex-president. We should have forced him out.
President Gore would have received an even bigger majority in 2000 than he did.
I think your blame Clinton first last and always mindset betrays you. Your pretence that the number of votes mattered in the 2000 elections seems quaint given what we know now.
"What people wanted post-9/11 was Giuliani-ism on a global scale"
As a New Yorker and a supporter of Giuliani pre-9/11 I have to respectfully disagree.
There is a huge difference between "cracking down on squeegee men and mob bosses" and "trampling over the privacy rights, or at least the privacy concerns, of law-abiding citizens."
If you want the local equivalent of the Bush-Cheney-Hayden style of benevolent dictator, then look not to Rudy Giuliani but rather to Michael Bloomberg, who is a far more paternalistic, patronizing --and totally out of control -- philosopher-king mayor than Giuliani ever was.
Clinton's impeachment was not an attack on Clinton, but an attack on impeachment. The GOP wanted to blunt a weapon that had, in living memory, been threatened or used exclusively against them -- Watergate, Iran-Contra.
If they had actually gotten Clinton, that would have been langniappe.
Making a joke out of impeachment was the real goal. If the GOP succeeded in doing that, then they could act with impunity when next in the White House.
Which is exactly what is happening today.
The president daily shreds the Constitution, and anyone who so much as mentions impeachment is laughed out of the room.
With regard to learning about Carl Schmitt, there are two possibilities. The first is to read Schmitt himself, which is less of an ordeal than is the case for most German theorists, though there are definitely some opaque passages. Probably his most important book is Political Theology, just republished in a very good edition by the University of Chicago Press. Two other books are very much worth reading, The Concept of the Political and The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy, both available in good paperback editions (by Chicago and Duke, respectively). Or, there is a superb introduction to his thought by William Scheurman, titled Carl Schmitt.
Schmitt is most definitely not someone to be embraced lightly, if at all. My argument is that he is perhaps the best theoretical guide to what seems to be taking place right now, NOT that he is someone to be particularly commended. He was, after all, the most important academic apologist for the rise of Hitler, But that does not mean that he isn't worth reading and thinking long and hard about, alas.
As someone wary about Giulani-ism, the suggestion Bloomberg is somehow comparable to Bush and co., well that seems to me absurd.
But, G. was what we were looking for on 9/11. Along with major snowstorms, that sort of thing brought out the best in him. He got sick, so could not run for senator, which is good ... the man simply is not senator material in my view. Not his forte.
As to Clinton. I thought a serious investigation was proper, though some fellow travellers were rather angry I suggested it. I don't think resignation was appropriate: for what? Being a cad? We knew that when he was elected. Caveat emptor. He did go too far and his weaknesses were tragic. But, sadly, predictable.
But, his opposition went off the deep end. A core were true believers, the rest (the same who let Bush get away w murder now, the "reasonable" sorts) cynical sorts who let them drag the country down with them.
If they did force Clinton out, the backlash might have been good in the end. But, the precedent dangerous. Also, Gore was tainted by the whole affair with problems himself.
After the fact conclusions seem risky.
I think P. J. O'Rourke said it best about Guiliani after 9/11: "Sometimes it's handy to have a paranoid in power."
I think the more relevant writings from '30's Germany are Otto Kircheimer's. His "Weimar ... And Then What?" is really good. It's in Burin and Shell's anthology of his work.
Kircheimer is indeed relevant. I earlier mentioned Bill Scheurman's excellent short volume on Schmitt. His first book, From the Norm to the Exception (MIT Press) is a superb study of Schmitt, Kircheimer, and Franz Neumann.Post a Comment